Police chief: Full implementation of body cameras for Wichita officers is near

The Department of Justice has sent the federal grant money that Wichita police officials have been waiting on to pay for the rest of the body cameras they plan to issue to officers, Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay said Friday.

Ramsay announced the action via Twitter.

“Full implementation is almost here,” Ramsay tweeted.

Wichita police officials had set a goal of outfitting every field officer with a body camera by the end of 2015, but that effort fell short because federal dollars earmarked for more than 200 of the cameras hadn’t arrived.

Wichita received a $250,000 grant as part of President Obama’s push to buy 50,000 body-worn cameras for law enforcement over a three-year period. The money must be spent only on equipment, and the agencies chosen have to match the federal contribution.

Ramsay has said he is a big proponent of body cameras, and at his introductory news conference late last month said one of the first things on his to-do list was to expedite the release of the federal dollars for them.

“We are really excited to see this project be fully implemented, “ Ramsay said in a statement. “Body worn cameras are instrumental in giving us accountability in our job.”

The department already has 212 body-worn cameras issued to patrol officers in the Patrol North and Patrol East bureaus. The remaining 217 cameras will go to officers in the Patrol South and Patrol West bureaus.

The cameras, which are mounted at face level, will not be issued to supervisors, police officials have said.

The federal grant means Wichita will have 429 body cameras deployed with officers, Capt. Brian White said in an e-mail response to questions. The original 60 body cameras first ordered by the department about two years ago are being replaced by new equipment, he said.

The pledge to outfit officers with the cameras emerged from a community forum organized in August 2014 in response to protests that followed a police officer’s shooting of an unarmed black teen in Ferguson, Mo.

Stan Finger: 316-268-6437, @StanFinger